Kelly Hammond should have brought more cheese.
Within the first hour of setting up his stand Thursday, about half of his supply of goat cheese was gone, scooped up by eager shoppers who flocked to the Evans Towne Farmers Market’s opening day.
“We are selling out of all stock,” Hammond said. “We will have to bring more next week.”
Hammond’s herd of Nubian, Saanen and Alpine goats has been producing fresh goat milk and cheese for the past seven years at Trail Ridge Farm in Aiken.
“Right now we are milking 18, but we’ll be up to 32 by mid-summer,” he said.
Hammond was one of a handful of local farmers who brought their wares to market Thursday. Other vendors sold everything from stained glass ornaments and artisan soaps to handmade wooden cutting boards.
Kim Hines, the director of Augusta Locally Grown, a nonprofit organization that organizes the weekly market, said one of the main reasons for having the farmers market on Thursday is that most local farmers are committed to other venues on weekends.
Hines said she wants to grow the market and give local farmers more places to find customers. She also wants to encourage more local people to take up organic agriculture and produce food for people who live in Columbia County.
Hines said the area around Charleston, S.C., has about 1,000 farms, of which about 600 sell to local markets and restaurants.
“In this area I’d be lucky to find 16 farmers,” she said.
That’s why Hammond drives from Aiken to sell his goat cheese and others come from neighboring Georgia counties, including Jefferson and Wilkes, to sell organic honey and grass-fed beef.
“We have to grow our farmers before we grow our farmers market,” Hines said.
Stephen Gianino is one of the farmers hoping to make a go of it. He was selling kale, collard greens and some potted plants he grows at his garden in Windmill Plantation.
Gianino said he has worked full time as a manager at Chick-fil-A for years, but being a full-time farmer is his dream job.
“This is what I love,” he said.
The market runs from 4:30-7 p.m. Thursdays through Oct. 30 at Memorial Park by the Columbia County Library.